The Writer’s Handful with Ben Tanzer


Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

This week marks the launch of Chicago writer Ben Tanzer’s 1,000th book. Okay, not really 1,000th, but this guy is giving Joyce Carol Oates a run for the money in words written and books published. Tanzer fans have waited patiently for Orphans, and now the wait is over. Ben Tanzer and a handful (see what I did there, Ben?) of his writer pals (me included) will celebrate the release of this new Tanzer title this coming Wednesday, November 6, 2013, 7 PM at Chicago’s Beauty Bar. But before that exciting event, you get this.

Welcome Ben!   

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

I did not. For a handful of reasons. See what I did there? Sorry. Mainly though I have been on a stretch starting some time in 2012 through this past summer, where I’ve felt incredibly manic, mostly in positive ways, but everything has seemed like an idea for a story or essay, a new book. Every conversation, every interaction with my kids, wife, at work. Every article I’ve been reading. Every fucking thought I’ve been having. And it started to scare me, so I decided that when I finished the things I was working on, I was going to take a break and try to chill out, which I have, and though I’m still thinking about writing all-day, every day, it’s been surprisingly pleasant. Was that too much information?Orphans

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

I never really wrote until I started writing at 30, though I thought about it for years before that. But I did write a story for a required creative writing class my senior year in high school inspired by the song Downbound Train by Bruce Springsteen. Guy loses his job, and his girl, and in my story he kills himself, puts a shotgun in his mouth, but he doesn’t die, it just relieves all of the pressure he’s under. Which seems somewhat telling given the answer to my previous question. Not to mention, that if a student turned in that kind of story today they would be referred for therapy. But I was kind of celebrated for it, which felt good, though it didn’t feel better than the act of writing it, which felt really good, and that feeling lingered for years, and still does now that I actually write, and don’t just think about it.

What are you reading right now?

So many cool things, mostly some wonderful ARCs for books at Curbside Splendor where I oversee Publicity and Content Strategy, including The Old Neighborhood by Bill Hillman, If I Would Leave by Lauren Becker, and Once I Was Cool Megan Stielstra, but also, the already released elsewhere and quite terrific Transubtantiate by Richard Thomas and Understories by Tim Horvath. A lot of goodness really.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

Moisturize. That or hydrate. Really though it’s a tie, and it’s writerly. One, don’t edit first drafts until you’re done with the first draft, and two, don’t linger on rejections, send the work right back out to someone else who will love it like you do.

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

I Googled the words “animal sparse quick punchy,” thinking that might help me determine said animal, and I came up with the novel We the Animals by Justin Torres, which apparently takes place in upstate New York where I grew up. So color me intrigued as far as that goes. Not that this answers your question. I am not really into animals, but thinking quick and punchy, if not sparse, how about a hyena, they seem to make quick work of things, and they’re sort of rough, yet still funny and seem to enjoy themselves. Plus, they play a key supporting role in The Lion King, which I name-drop in Orphans, so now I’m marketing, and cross-pollinating, and there we go. Thank you.



Ben Tanzer’s official bio says this: Ben Tanzer is a prolific novelist and an Emmy Award-winning public service announcement writer. He lives in Chicago where he lives with his family. Visit him at

And, in case you are wondering: In Ben Tanzer’s futurist science fiction novel Orphans ( the metropolis of Chicago has morphed into a place called Baidu, a burned-out shell of its former self. Homeless people have been banned from the central city and have set up makeshift camps along the lakefront. Drone helicopters constantly patrol city streets from above, and hapless people who congregate run the risk of being summarily executed. The recession has devastated the landscape and all menial jobs have been taken over by life-like robots. The lucky few who can find work are scanned, profiled, and even cloned by “the corporation,” a secretive and ominous organization reminiscent of Orwell’s Big Brother.

It is a story about the impact of work on family. How work warps our best intentions. And how everything we think we know about ourselves looks different during a recession. It is also a story about drugs, surfing, punk music, lost youth, parenting, sex, pop culture as vernacular, and a conscious intersection of Death of a Salesmanor Glengarry Glen Ross with the Martian Chronicles and the Silver Surfer. Ultimately, Orphans is a literary survey of the 21st century male psyche, yet it does so with a newfound twist and contemporary themes. This is a world where the recession is all we know, work is only available to a select group, and this group not only need fear being replaced on the job, but in their homes and beds.

→Thanks so much, Ben, for the chat. See you Wednesday! And thanks everyone–as always–for reading. -PMc←

The Writer’s Handful with Ryan W. Bradley


Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

Today’s featured writer is a poet who takes on the good stuff: “love, lust, and the sea,” Ryan W. Bradley tells us in the introduction to his brand new collection, THE WAITING TIDE. Mikaela Jorgensen, in her review for Gapers Block, says: “The poems are affectionate and sensual and intimate, but written in a way that only a poet can write about these things. You’ll read this collection and wish that someone would write poems like this about you.”

THE WAITING TIDE, a tribute to Pablo Neruda’s The Captain’s Verses, is the first release of Concepción, an imprint of the mighty small press Curbside Splendor, whose mission is “to publish books of elegant prose and poetry in English and Spanish.” And elegant this book is.

Welcome Ryan!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

I did! I just finished my weekly NFL diary for The Good Men Project, and I’ve also worked sporadically on a new novella called Winterswim that takes place in my hometown, Wasilla, Alaska. Currently I’m working on a chapter that is the pivot in the story, things are about to race to a climax! Or something…

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

I wrote a couple poems in seventh grade as part of an assignment in my English class. I approached it as a joke, decided I would show my teacher how dumb the assignment was by writing the dumbest poems I could imagine. Problem was I ended up liking them.Waiting Tide_Front

What are you reading right now?

I somehow got into the middle of a couple books. I’m reading Jonathan Lethem’s Dissident Gardens, Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black, William Alexander’s Goblin Secrets with my five year old, and I’m listening to the audiobook of Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

When I was younger I was really frustrated with being short. I loved sports, and it’s hard to be taken seriously in sports if you’re short. I spent a lot of time lamenting that I wasn’t taller. My stepdad, who is 6’3″ told me “There will always be someone who’s taller or faster or better than you are.” It’s a sort of grass-is-greener philosophy for analysis of one’s own achievements and goals. “There will always be better” is a sort of mantra. I know it doesn’t matter how good I am at something in comparison to others, I can only be best version of me, and I try hard to do that in everything I do.

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

I can’t think of this kind of question the same way since I listened to the audiobook of Zoobiquity (which is brilliant, by the way). I learned a lot about animal sexuality. Animals are kinky. Lots of animals partake in masturbation and mutual masturbation, and really isn’t writing kind of like mutual masturbation? At least when it’s done well? I’d like to answer this question by just listing hundreds of weird facts I learned, but instead I’d say read Zoobiquity. That’s not a cop-out, it’s just genuine excitement for the naughtiness of the animal kingdom.

Ryan W. Bradley has fronted a punk band, done construction in the Arctic Circle, managed an independent children’s bookstore, and now designs book covers. He is the author of several books of poetry and fiction, including the novel, CODE FOR FAILURE (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2013). He received his MFA from Pacific University and lives in Oregon with his wife and two sons.

→Thanks, Ryan, for the chat. And especially for the very valuable information about animals and their, er, compassion for one another, let’s say. And, once again, thanks everyone for reading! -PMc←

The Writer’s Handful with Chris L. Terry


Writers + Mondays = Finally something to look forward to.


Happy, happy, happy to feature Chris L. Terry on The Writer’s Handful today. Chris’s debut novel, Zero Fade, was just released from Curbside Splendor and already it is garnering quite a bit of buzz and fine reviews. Kirkus gave the book a starred review, calling it, “Original, hilarious, thought-provoking and wicked smart: not to be missed. Jake Austen of the Chicago Tribune says the book is “funny, funky and pitch perfect.” And Emily Roth of Chicago Literati writes: “As a whole, Zero Fade succeeds, entertains, and sets the bar (and my excitement) high for Chris L. Terry’s future novels.”Zero Fade Front Cover

Not bad stuff for a new guy, huh? But don’t just believe what others tell you. For a taste of this delicious stuff, check out the trailer.

Then read an excerpt on VOL.1 BROOKLYN.

And then go to your favorite bookstore and get a copy – or order it here.

Welcome, Chris!


Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

No, because my 34-year-old ass decided to stay out until 1am on a Sunday night, seeing a terrific punk band called the Future Virgins. I usually write in the morning before work, but that did not happen today. I got some stuff done yesterday, though. I’m collaborating on a story with Zero Fade cover artist Ezra Claytan Daniels and we worked on that at Metropolis.

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

In third grade, we had to write a story. Mine was about a caveman couple named Sonny and Cher. I made a layered cover where the top sheet had a hole torn in it to look like a cave opening. It was the first time I cared about an assignment at school.

What are you reading right now?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Just finished the issue of Truckface zine about the CPS teacher strike.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

I like in On Writing when Stephen King says to write every day. I’m a firm believer in keeping the machine greased.

Also, my dad used to say, “Don’t shave naked, you might drop the razor.”

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

My writing would be a raccoon because it’s out there at dawn, going through all sorts of shit.

Photo Source
Photo Source

Fun Facts about Chris L. Terry (from his website

  • Lived in Boston, Richmond, Brooklyn and Chicago.
  • Black father, Irish-American mother.
  • BA in English from Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • Spent late teens and early twenties touring North America and Europe, singing for punk bands.
  • Over five years’ experience editing writing.
  • Has contributed to Razorcake magazine since 2006.
  • Past jobs that start with B: babysitter, bartender, barista, bassist, baker, bicycle mechanic.
  • Runs 15-20 miles a week.
  • Cooks at home as often as possible.

And Chris got his MFA from the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago.

→Follow Zero Fade and Chris on Facebook: And see Chris’s work space on View From the Keyboard. Thanks again, Chris, for taking the time to chat. And thanks to everyone for reading! -PMc←